Chinese AI Unicorn MiniMax Strives to Mirror’s Success in Social AI Sector

Founded in 2021 by ex-SenseTime employees, Chinese AI unicorn MiniMax is striving to replicate the success of the frontrunner in the social AI and AI companion sector. With the launch of two rapidly growing apps, both domestically and internationally, MiniMax is attracting users through its immersive product design and distinctive content. was founded by former Google employees and allow users to customize their own AI virtual characters. The American startup, the current leader in the sector of social AI apps that allow users to have immersive interactions with virtual AI characters, was reportedly raising funding that could value the company at over US$5 billion last September. is encountering robust competition from Chinese AI firms, notably MiniMax. MiniMax, which was close to raising a funding around at a valuation of US$1.2 billion last summer, initially launched an AI virtual chat social app named Glow in China, which quickly garnered millions of users within four months.

Following Glow’s removal from Chinese app stores, MiniMax, which draws its name from AI algorithm, rebounded by introducing two AI character role-playing apps: Talkie for international markets and Xing Ye for China, around last summer.

Talkie swiftly ascended the U.S. Google Play download charts, reaching the top 5 in the non-game download category and securing the sixth position overall in September. Xing Ye, released later in September, is swiftly climbing the app charts in China.

While continues to hold a leading position, benefiting from its early market entry and established reputation and user loyalty, Talkie has gained a million daily active users internationally and is expanding quickly. The segment is heating up, with potential for intense competition as more players enter this burgeoning field.

The biggest advantage of is its user-centric product design, allowing users to fully customize their own AI chatbots to alleviate loneliness. However, MiniMax’s Talkie seems to place more emphasis on visual effects, believing that 60% visual combined with 40% quality chat could produce better user experiences.

Additionally, Talkie also incorporates more gameplay into the app. Its card system allows users to draw cards for free once a day, and subsequent draws require spending in-game currency called "Gems." Talkie has developed a trading system that not only enhances user interaction but also attempts to build its own creator economy, aiming to monetize on this basis.

More Chinese companies are developing similar apps that could make this crowded space even more crowded. ByteDance reportedly is developing similar AI virtual companion apps. Many former product managers from ByteDance have also ventured into this field by starting up their own companies.

Meituan released an independent app called "Wow," positioned as an AI friend community for young people last November. Similar products include Tencent Music’s "WeiBan," Baidu’s "XiaoKan Planet," and Xiao Bing’s "X EVA".

There are challenges for AI virtual companion firms. Intellectual property is one of the key uncertainties. These apps essentially involves the secondary development of IP, but the copyright of these IPs often belongs to game companies. If a game company restricts the use of its IP, this could lead to significant legal risks for these firms.

Moreover, chatting with virtual AI characters requires more user involvement, which could be challenging to support consistent user growth. User experience could also be improved with better technology to improve the quality of video, audio, and effect of the virtual AI characters.


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